Thursday, February 04, 2010

Reflections on a Marathon

It seems like an eternity ago but it's only been a short 18 days since my DNF at the Chevron Houston Marathon. It took me about 5 minutes to get over the disappointment of not finishing a race I had trained for for so long and start looking at all the positives of the race, the week leading up to the race, the training, and how I was poised for what's next. I'll never dwell on any situation like what happened to me that day and I'll NEVER look at it as a failure or wonder "what if" or "if I had only...". It was what it was and that is an opportunity to learn and improve and evaluate and look forward.

I've had 2+ weeks to reflect on everything about that race and what happened and what positive things I can take away and I must say the more I think about it, the more excited I am for what lies ahead. Some wonderful things came out of that race for me personally. You see, with one exception (2008 Houston Half Marathon), up to this race, my mind has been the limiting factor in ANY long race I've ever run. Thinking back to my 2007 marathon and all the training and races since, I think my whole outlook has been one of fear. I've tried to exude and positive attitude on the outside to my friends and fellow runners but there have always been these thoughts in the back of my mind. Thoughts like "I'm so slow", "What if I don't finish before the cutoff?", "I don't think I can run that fast", "Maybe I shouldn't run this race", "That's too ambitious a goal", "Everyone's going to be waiting on me and ready", "Waiting on Vic", "Waiting and waiting and waiting". Physically, I've gone out and done long races, 10 milers, 25K, 30K, half marathon, marathon, but my performance has always been lacking. I can't remember a long race I've ever completed where I felt like I ran to my potential, to the level I had trained for and prepared for physically.

Jan 17 was the first race I've run in my life where my mind was not the limiting factor. Let me explain. Coming off my longest long run (21 miles) and into my taper, I started having those thoughts again. I also came out of that run with a nagging pain in the back of my heel that never would quite go away. I tried all the regular stuff to shake it, ice, rest, compression, etc. It would feel fine, then the weekend before the marathon, I attempted my last "long" run of 10 miles. I basically ran 6 and couldn't go any farther. I limped back to the car, DONE!!! Done but not defeated. I figured if I could get in to see Dr. H, get a massage, rest completely, I could still pull it off.

My nutritionist (and coach and cheerleader and FRIEND), Catherine, got wind of the issues I was having and told me to go see Joel. Joel does Muscle activation technique and is a miracle worker. I also got in to Dr. H on Wednesday. It was starting to feel a little better. Then Catherine suggested I see Dr. Sones who is part of her Peak Performance team. Dr. Sones turned me on to the idea that our thoughts and attitudes, the mind, affects our body and that basically our subconscious mind is directly related to how we feel physically. If we can turn off the negative thoughts and feelings like fear and turn on positive thinking, it can affect our physical being. Now this all was very other-world to me but I figured what do I have to lose. Then on Friday, I saw Joel one more time and we talked about what Dr. Sones's ideas. See, Joel is a "believer" too. Joel talked about positive thinking. We visualized the perfect finish to the race. Even visualized what the clock would say, 6:00:00. We picked some words that were positive words and Joel wrote me a prescription. 30 seconds/3 times per day/and once before the race, visualize that euphoric moment as you cross the finish line after a perfect race and think about those words. The words I chose were Love, Goal, Challenge, Fun, and Finish.

Anyway, this is getting kind of weird I know. But you know what? I've NEVER, EVER in my life felt more prepared for a race mentally as I was that morning. I knew without any possible doubt that I was going to run 6:00:00. I REALLY believed it. I mean like I've never believed anything before that I've tried to accomplish. I went out at that pace and held it. When going got tough, I just said, "This is FUN. This is a great Challenge. I Love my family. I have a Goal. I'm going to Finish." Never one time did I fear or worry about all the things I used to fear. I just believed it was going to happen.

The rest of the story is that at mile 18, the cramps started. I mean like BAD cramps. Debilitating cramps. At least they were like none I'd ever experienced before. I pulled over to stretch out but it just got worse. I could barely walk straight my calves and thighs were cramping so bad. That's when I called it quits and called Jan to come get me. Live to fight another day.

So, what happened. I know some think that it was hydration or it was salt or this or that. I'll tell you I practice that stuff. I practice my hydration. I practice with salt tablets on my long runs. My own theory and you're not going to convince me otherwise is that for the first time in my running career, my mind was not the limiting factor. I think I was so psyched out in my mind and believed it so much that I just set out to do something my body wasn't ready to do. I think I went out too hard and too fast and basically that's why the cramps started. My body just said, "Woah!!! That is quite enough." And it may have just been the day too. Anything can happen in a marathon. But I really think I pushed myself beyond what my training had prepared me for. I probably had a 6:15 or 6:20 in me but not 6:00.

Catherine told Dr. Sones about my marathon and what happened and what we talked about and he said this to her. "The key to Peak Performance is to take your belief beyond your potential. That is what Vic did." It still gives me chills to think about that. Catherine encouraged me that I just need to do that and see where it takes me. And that's what I'm taking away from this race. "Continue believing beyond your potential and think where it will take you." COOL!!!

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